Signing or appeasing?

If Celtic want to employ players to appease fans seeking transfer marker activity then I suggest they don’t go for Leigh Griffiths. As a fellow blogger has written today, “He has been in trouble with the police for assault, racist tweets and charged with shop lifting”.

What should be noted was that this was on a list of seven points on why Celtic should sign the Scotland striker. Talkingbaws.com were doing just that and I’m afraid that overlooking a players’ off field behaviour is not something that Celtic should be doing.

The fact that Celtic do not possess an proven goalscorer in their ranks right now remains a concern. Celtic have brought some good players in under Neil Lennon, but there have been some real muppets as well.

Teemu Pukki, not who I would consider a proper striker, has struggled. It’s only now, with the spotlight off him and the Champions League over for another year that fans have stopped talking about him though he may still improve.

Mo Bangura did anything but put the ball in the back of the net for the club. He subsequently burnt his bridges whilst playing on loan for Elfsborg against Celtic, though it is doubtful there were any bridges back to Celtic Park for him to cross other than to confirm that he would be exiting at the earliest possible time.

Amido Baldé has shown promise and is still young but he doesn’t get a look in. It may be Lennon’s choice to keep him under wraps for now and to develop him but that hasn’t helped the club in their most recent Champions League campaign and there are no assurance it will do so in the next, should that goal be achieved next season.

Georgios Samaras has been a hero for Celtic in Europe but he was nowhere near as effective this season as the previous. Though to be fair the same can be said about the team as a whole.

It was a very unconvincing European campaign in 2013. You can argue about the amount of qualifiers and early summer timing for a team in preparation but Celtic were seriously lacking in attack.

Kris Common’s has carried the team this year and he isn’t even a striker. We were desperate to see his form return this season and it has in abundance but he needs others to weigh in.

Anthony Stokes, a second pick against former Celtic striker Gary Hooper in the Champions League last season, has great ability. Is he really an out and out striker though? No, he is not.

I like Stokes, I like his style but he still needs someone in front of him doing the business with or without his help. There doesn’t appear to be someone getting matches at Celtic that can do that right now.

Samaras plays out wide and rarely sees domestic opportunities. I’m not complaining about that because it is obvious not just to fans but to opponents in Europe of how big a threat he is.

That does Lennon no favours though. What he requires is a goal seeker.

Someone who is quick, eager and deadly in front of goal. We’ve not seen that of late.

Hólmbert Friðjónsson is an under-21 international, who comes with a reasonable amount of promise. Though that merely puts him the same camp as Baldé because its unlikely that he’s the one to get thrown into first team action.

Still, it remains a good move to employ a number one striker now. Before the Champions League qualifying stages come along in July, Celtic will want, sorry will need to have someone who has already gotten to know his surroundings.

Bedding in time comes easier to some more than others but its still a complex situation. The players, the coaching, the fans that stadium and the expectation that comes along with wearing the Hoops.

Yet, it may still transpire that Lennon does sign Griffiths. He may even have grown up and put his off field misdemeanors to bed, but could he do a job in Europe?

Well, I am no seer that’s for sure.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

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A difference of opinion

I started writing this on my way to work yesterday. Once I got there, I read a few Celtic headlines and decided to postpone writing the blog.

When I read Neil Lennon’s post match praise of the team I thought I had been watching a different game altogether. Either that or I must have been more drunk than the hangover suggested.

To confuse matters further, Johan Mjallby was later quoted as saying the team were “utterly abysmal”. He did reserve some praise for the central defence though.

With Kelvin Wilson’s suggested departure, perhaps neither coach wanted to jinx the transfer. That deal has now gone through of course and this will all become confined to history.

The fact is that I, amongst others, felt that this was a poor Celtic performance. We may have progressed but it was a far from convincing ninety-plus minutes.

There was a time when progression in Europe was a distant memory for Celtic. Nowadays, the club find themselves in a situation where Europe is the lifeblood of every season.

Wednesday nights 0-0 against Elfsborg took us into this mornings draw for a play off spot. Now Celtic will face Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy for a place in the Champions League group stage.

I am pleased that Celtic have made it through to the play offs. The match that finally got us there was anything but pretty though.

Samaras had a golden opportunity early on and Ledley even looked like scoring. At no time did I ever think the team looked comfortable though.

The Celtic midfield were ‘passing’ the ball like a hot potato. Misplaced passes are Celtic of old, not today.

As much as Johan and Neil praised the defence I only felt that one of these players deserved it. Mikael Lustig turned in a great performance in defence and attack down the right flank.

Elsewhere in defence it appeared that the players were all over the place. So it was anything but assured at the back.

Elfsborg were nothing special, but anytime they attacked the Celtic Iooked like they had never played together. That was my major concern.

I’m certain that Neil was trying to keep his comments positive given that the team had just progressed to the next phase. It is the managers job at the end of the day.

As I say though, I am just glad Celtic are through. It may not be the group phase, but I expect more players to come in now that we’re in a safety zone.

We’ve just seen off Wilson, our most improved player last season, so there will need to be a replacement for him now. With any luck Celtic will go for that much awaited striker as well.

Regardless of the coaching staff’s mixed opinions, it would be ridiculous to ignore the performance in Borås. Elfsborg remain unbeaten at home in two years but it is Celtic who are in the Champions League play offs.

The Europa League is guaranteed for the loser. Some may think Celtic will see this one out no problem but I like to keep things realistic.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Next stop: Elfsborg Fortress

Whilst one Glasgow club tears itself apart, another prepares for a crucial European tie. Celtic, currently competing in Europe, face Swedish club Elfsborg tomorrow night in the city of Borås, the return leg for Champions League qualification.

The second leg of this tie will be a tense affair for Celtic supporters. I have first hand knowledge.

A slender 1-0 lead means Celtic will need to be on their game. No mess ups, just 100% focus and application.

Without an out and out striker, the team will need to be patient where goals are concerend. There are goal scorers available though and Celtic will be looking to captilise when the ball breaks and opportunities come to bear.

With Samaras travelling and fit, he is likely to start. He is one player that can carve out goals in Europe and away from home.

Its hard to believe sometimes where his Celtic career was a few years back. “Languid” was one word a friend and fellow supporter would use to describe his form of that time – an in-joke that continues to this day within my circle.

Samaras would wander around the field of play with the ball stuck to his feet. The only thing missing back then was where the hell he was going on the park.

Lennon saw something though and remained on his side, regularly stating that he hoped the player would not let him down. You could see Samaras with flashes of ability and Lennon has helped him achieve the status he now has.

Samaras will not be relied upon to do it all himself of course. This is a team game and there will be a concerted effort to defend an attacking Efsborg side looking for that first goal.

Kelvin Wilson is fit and likely to partner Efe Ambrose in central defence. Charlie Mulgrew is also in the frame but unless Ambrose or Wilson are left out, Charlie could find himself on the bench or even deployed in midfield.

It is hard to guess how Lennon will set up though. Flood the midfield and use the channels, or keep it even from back to front?

Your guess is as good as mine. Though the former of the two has worked well in the past.

Rogic, Van Dijk and Boerrigter did not travel so it will be the usual suspects. This squad know each other and know what is at stake.

Elfsborg will feel confident though. A 1-0 deficit, playing the second leg at the Borås Arena and on an artificial surfice they are unbeaten on since September 2011 is positive in them.

However, Celtic have been here before. Few goals, away fixture, Champions League at stake and a  plastic pitch – the Hoops are every bit as capable.

We’ll all be on the edge of our seats. I may find it hard to focus on anything else for the next 24 hours.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Moving ahead.

I think most people would agree that Celtic turned in a good performance last night. The goal tally could have been greater, but the team put in a decent shift for this stage of pre-season.

Usually the main talking points are about player performance. However, the dirty tackling and poor refereeing are on my mind today.

The number of blatant fouls commited by Elfsborg was ridiculous. In Europe, referees are supposed to be tough on this sort of thing but last night they were weak.

I wouldn’t say that Celtic went out looking for these fouls. As the match wore on and Elfsborg continued to get away with their repeated fouling, Celtic did move in that direction.

That was mainly down to the lack of goals. On the other hand, Celtic players were being continually cut down on the attack.

An impressive Kris Commons had the beating of everyone last night and was surprisingly yellow carded whilst on the attack. So I felt it was a harsh booking when he was through on goal especially when the referee was somewhat lenient with the opposition.

Despite my previous blog on this subject, I cannot continue without mentioning Mo Bangura. Regardless of his presence in an opposing role to Celtic last night, his conduct was disappointing.

Any chance he had to return to Celtic, however unlikely, came to an end last night. Foul or no foul his face holding antics alone were enough to disgust the support, myself included but he’ll never wear the jersey again.

All that aside the team played well for most of the game. There were a few misunderstandings at the back but the midfield played well.

Kayal tired as the match wore on but Ledley’s arrival in the second half gave the team a lift. His presence in the midfield gave the team a dimension that allowed them to press forward.

Creativity was not lacking but where we were lacking was a cutting edge in attack. Just that one player to create room for himself and give defenders problems.

New additions Balde, Van Dijk, Mouyokolo and Boerrigter will hopefully add quality as well as depth to the squad. It could be that crucial fifth signing though that provides us with a target man.

Names have been mooted as Hooper’s replacement. A good striker will come soon I am sure, but until such a deal is made, Celtic will work with the players they do have.

With flag day at Celtic Park this Saturday, my first match at Paradise in couple of years, it is back to domestic business but only for one fixture. Our following game will be away to Elfsborg.

Celtic must take that slender lead of 1-0 and keep it tight. Not only have the team shown they can score away from home in Europe, but that they can win away from home in Europe.

Away goals and wins eluded the club for long periods. Lennon’s mentors O’Neill and Strachan got the ball rolling in Europe for Celtic once more but the current manager has built upon that.

Despite last seasons convincing home and away form in Europe, Lennon should not and will not take anything for granted. A bigger stage awaits the club and its what we all live for but it doesn’t come easily.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

A Conflict of Interests?

Celtic have a bad record when it comes to former players coming back to play against them. They generally come in the form of strikers as well.

After poor form and injury Bangura went on loan to his old club AIK last summer. He is now on a loan spell with Celtic’s opponent’s tomorrow night, Elfsborg.

It is understandable why Mo Bangura playing tomorrow night, whilst he is still a Celtic player, would be an issue for the Neil Lennon. On a professional level it seems unprofessional but for me it’s more of the jinx issue that is of concern.

I’m sure there are quite a few people thinking “what if?” It’s for that reason alone that there is concern.

The likelihood of Bangura playing against Celtic would have been so slim that you wouldn’t have though about putting a clause in his loan deal. Though it does make you wonder if it should be a mandatory clause.

Elfsborg have been making sounds that they will play Bangura and probably will. On this side of the North Sea, there has been friendly advice from Celtic that this is unwise particularly where his Celtic career lies.

The Swedish club are perfectly within their rights to play him. You can also see why they would want to play him.

However, if Bangura were to say miss a penalty against Celtic or even score an own goal, there would be more than a few eyebrows raised. I’m not suggesting that this is some sinister plan of course but you can imagine how this might go down with the media and even UEFA nevermind  getting the conspiracy theory badge.

With Bangura likely to face Celtic tomorrow night, as well as the second leg, there is no doubt that these fixtures now have a little bit more of an edge them. It’s not the kind of edge I particularly like though.

European matches are edgy enough as it is without one of your own players playing against you. If I was Lennon I would be fuming but perhaps this situation is something that the club will need to put down to experience.

It’s different when a player leaves a club permanently and comes back as an opponent. That is something out with your control.

It just doesnt’ feel right and that some lines are being crossed. If I were the man that agreed the terms of that loan, I would be thinking “I won’t make that mistake again.”

All we can hope for is for Celtic to go out and smash Elfsborg and put the fixture to bed. As for Bangura, he may never play for Celtic again.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie